HONOLULU to HILO
We took the first flight out of Oahu and headed to the Big Island of Hawaii. When we landed it was immediately a different world. On our first night in our rural cabin surrounded by bright green geckos, I wrote in my diary "Today we took a wrong turn and ended up on a road that had a sign: "emergency lava road closure." It was at that moment that being on this island felt very real." Little things from our first day on the big island that I will always remember include seeing smoke in the distance and wondering wether or not is was the volcano. And the bumpiness (smooth, long bumps across the road kind of like a rollercoaster) of the coastal road to our house made us feel so queasy on our first drive on it. Eventually we got used to it, but at least once on the road you need to let out a little yell/yelp to make you feel better.
Day two in Hilo, we make a coffee, get ready and head off to Volcanoes National Park - the place I am most excited to visit. Our drive to the National Park started off sunny, but as we ascended 1km and more above sea level, we were eventually driving inside the clouds where the temperature dropped to 14°C, fog surrounded us at there was a constant drizzle of rain. We grabbed a map from the park entrance and headed off in the wrong direction at first before turning around and getting on the road we were supposed to: Chain of Craters Drive. We stopped so many times on our drive through the National Park. We couldn't do any of the long hikes because of the constant rain, but I loved the fog and all the sights. The grass and ferns growing out of the lava rock was my favourite thing to see. We stopped at:
- The Lava Tube (which we luckily had all to ourselves!)
- Lava Flow. July 1974.
- Pauahi Crater
- Kealakomo Lookout (2000ft above sea level)
- A lookout on our way down the mountain to Hōlei Sea Arch
A small sign on the highway to Hilo: "SMILE. ENJOY LIFE". Painted on a small wooden sheet, hidden amongst the trees. But you can see it if you look. Today is the day we are heading up to Mauna Kea Summit. We wake up early to pick up our 4wd rental from Harpers - the only company that rents cars to go to the top of the summit. When we picked up the car, they photograph everything, even using a floor mirror on wheels to take photos of the under side of the car. Any scratch, dent or mark that wasn't there before you rented it, you would have to pay for it on your return. It was a little nerve-wrecking to rent from here but it was nice being back in a 4wd.
We started the ascent up Mauna Kea, which at first was a smooth highway road. We decided to stop when we reached 2000m above sea level on the side of the road, get out and adjust to the altitude. As soon as we got out of the car, it instantly reminded me of when we first landed in Poland in the early Spring time. The air was cool, but not too cold and the breeze was so fresh. It was perfect.
Onwards we headed to the Visitor Information Centre, 2800m above sea level, where we bought some souvenirs and got a map for the mountain. After another half an hour break to adjust to the altitude, we decided to tackle the road to the summit. From the bottom, the gravel road up looks scary. Once you're on it, it's actually a lot wider than many other roads we've been on. At first the road looked like we were on the moon and the further up we drove, the dirt and rocks turned red and it looked like we were on Mars. When we reached the summit - 4,400m, we both felt fine - no signs of altitude sickness. We headed to one of the telescopes that was open to the public and were the only ones there. While we were reading the information up on the walls, a man in a lab coat comes in to let me know that the telescope is about to do a 360° spin if we want to have a look.
We ended up talking to David the Technician for about half an hour while watching the telescope spin around slowly. He was telling us so many things about his job and his life up on the mountain. He also told us so many interesting facts:
- He is the main driver of this telescope
- He fixes/tends to it during the day before using it at night
- The telescope is so perfectly balanced you could push the 635 tonne instrument with your hand. And he has personally done that.
- It costs just under a quarter of a billion dollars
- This is the telescope used to prove the Big Bang Theory
- He was working on the night and saw it happen: A star was expanding and got sucked into the black hole in the universe and disappeared
- This telescope proves that every star you see and don't see in the sky has it's own planets and solar system
- Water exists on every planet - it is created while the planet is being created
Dan and I then spent the rest of the afternoon watching the sun set from above the clouds. It was beyond freezing cold and ridiculously windy but watching the sun set from above 4,400m was something I'll never forget. On the way back down to the Visitor Centre, we got out of the car to adjust to the altitude again and I've never seen so many starts in the sky in my entire life!
On a sunny day we headed back to Volcanoes National Park. The first time we were there, it was so cloudy and foggy that we couldn't see the actual volcano at all. When we arrived, it was my first time seeing a live, active, erupting volcano - and it was amazing! On our way back home, we took a quick detour to the lava viewing area which is only open from 3pm-9pm. Here we saw the land that was destroyed by the 2008 lava flow - it was a desolate, barren landscape of thick, black, jagged lava rocks that wiped out all the suburbs in it's way. Even more amazingly, we also saw the people who used to live here before the lava flow that re-built their houses in the same spots again, this time just on top of the lava.